Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jimmy Carter Steps in Doo Doo - Again!

One of the problems many people have with Jimmy Carter is that he seems to give off an excess of self-righteousness. I have no way of knowing whether or not that is true. I'm sure many people feel Jimmy Carter is a humble man trying to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, if you don't know what you're doing, trying to do the right thing can by very trying, or deadly!

Carter decided, on his own, and against the wishes of our government as well as the government of Israel, to trot off to Damascus, Syria and meet with the leader of the terrorist group, Hamas. The purpose of this trek, according to Mr. Carter, was to broker peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Carter believes that Hamas "must be engaged in order to achieve Middle East peace."

So, the former president sat down with Khaled Mashaal, the "exiled leader of Hamas and his deputy, two men the U.S. government has labeled terrorists and Israel accuses of masterminding attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians."

What was Carter thinking?

Hamas exists to destroy Israel. Hamas lives to drive Israel into the sea. Hamas proclaims that Israel is an illegitimate state. Hamas sends rockets and suicide bombers into Israel at every opportunity. Hamas is one of the worst terrorist organizations in the world.

The result of Carter's meddling was fourfold:

1. Hamas now claims "new legitimacy from the meetings." Mohammed Nazzal, a spokesperson for Hamas' political bureau, said "Political isolation [of Hamas] by the American administration has begun to crumble."

2. Hamas did not respond to Carter's requests to stop its rockets attacks against Israel or meet with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai to negotiate a prisoner exchange.

3. Hamas' belligerence hardened as it noted that the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit will "not see the light" until such time as Israel is willing to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Shalit.

4. Israel said that it has plans to built 100 additional homes in two West Bank settlements - the territory wanted by the Palestinians for their future state.

Nice work, Jimmy!

Are Workers As Important as Profits?

The unemployment rate in the State of Florida in March 2008 was the highest it has been in over four years. According to the Agency for Workforce Innovation, 452,000 workers in Florida were without jobs. This works out to 4.9 percent of the total work force, and is slightly better than the national jobless rate which is at 5.1 percent.

In Marion County, Florida, the jobless rate is now 6 percent, up from 3.9 percent a year ago.

Oil has reached a record high $117 per barrel.

AT&T is planning to cut 4,600 jobs. Most of the people cut will be managers. Some corporate jobs will be eliminated.

Merrill Lynch & Co. just recently cut 1,000 jobs and announced yesterday it would cut 3,000 additional jobs.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported last Wednesday that it would reduce staff again in light of its aquisition of the investment bank, Bear Stearns, but did not specify the number. Bear Stearns has already cut 2,000 jobs since last year.

Washington Mutual Inc. said on April 8 it is planning to lay off some 3,000 people.

The biggie, however, is Citigroup, which cut 4,200 jobs in January and 9,000 more yesterday, and says more cuts are coming. Citigroup is still bleeding money. But, said chief executive Vikram Pandit, "We're very, very focused on efficiency." I wonder how much Mr. Pandit's annual gift from Citigroup amounts to and if that is counted as part of the company's focus on "efficiency"?

Try as I might, while researching the above facts, nowhere did I find the slightest indication that every single one of these job cuts, or workforce reductions or layoffs or whatever you want to call them, involved real, live human beings, most of which have mortgages, car payments, children to feed and clothe, and regular bills for all the other common household expenses.

When Florida has 452,000 people out of work, when Citigroup cuts 9,000 jobs, or another company lets thousands of people go, that means all these people--human beings--are suddenly thrown into a deep, dark void, a numbing and crushing whirlwind, a torrential rain of existential despair!

That's not all. Here's a complication. The data shows that the individual savings rate in this country is currently a minus. People are actually borrowing money to survive! That means that for most of those laid off, or thrown out, or "cut," the immediate question is: How will we get through tomorrow?"

I don't have a clue. I do wish, though, that someone cared a little bit. I wish that the workers were given the consideration that the CEO's are given. I wish that people would become at least as important as profits.

The Same Old Song in Florida

Well, let's see...Florida's state legislators have been very busy this past year working on tax relief which has meant so little money in the state coffers that they are now forced to cut vital services to education, the sick, the disabled and the elderly. Somehow the rich were not impacted by the tax cuts.

Florida's representatives and senators have also discussed whether Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution in our public schools. Some of these esteemed political leaders think that one of the creation stories in Genesis is literally true, which leads them to conclude that there must be a deity who was responsble for "intelligently designing" life as we know it. The teaching of Intelligent Design, they lie, has nothing to do with religion.

You will recall that Florida's elected representatives spent at least two days discussing whether or not to make it illegal to display replica bulls' balls from the back of a motor vehicle. One wingnut wanted to make such a display worthy of a $60 ticket.

Another debate of tremendous import for the state had to do with changing the state song, which, up to this point, has been the Stephen Foster classic, "Swanee River." Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, finds the song offensive and would not allow it to be played at his inauguration.

The legislature has spent a year fooling around with this business. Songwriters across the state were urged to enter a contest to come up with a new song. The winning song was something called "Florida - Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," and yes, it's as bad as it sounds. It failed to make the cut as the new state song but as a sop to the songwriter will become the new state anthem!

Now it looks like Florida will keep the same old song, although the lyrics may be updated to make it sound less racist. Or, the song will stay exactly the way it was when adopted it as Florida's state song 73 years ago.

In Tallahassee, they call that progress.

Pope Benedict XVI is Silent on the Jews

Yesterday, Friday, April 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Park East Synagogue in New York City.

It was a brief visit. The pope gave the synagogue as replica of a medieval Jewish manuscript from the Vatican library. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, in turn, presented Pope Benedict with a seder plate, a Passover haggadah, and a box of matzoh.

There was music. People said nice things to and about each other.

The pope spoke for approximately three minutes. (So, what was the matter? He didn't have more time? He had someplace more important to be?)

In his three-minute address, he is said to have "offered warm remarks." In other words, he said nothing of any consequence. Benedict did not mention the church's historic anti-Semitism; he did not refer to the fact that the Roman Church recently recanted that anti-Semitism and even pronounced the validity of the Jew's covenant with God; and he did not say anything about what appears to many a backward step-the newly-restored prayer in the Latin Mass prayer which stresses the Jews' need to accept Christ to be saved.

Not once did Benedict mention the Holocaust, nor did he offer the promise of closer Roman Catholic-Jewish relations.

How very curious. Is this one of those times when silence speaks louder than words?

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on Gibraltar's "Apes"

My post on the Barbary Macaques (apes) on Gibraltar was not complete...please go to the following link for much more detailed information on this situation.

By and large, the people of Gibraltar are not happy with the proposed cull and action is being taken in an attempt to overturn the government's ruling.

Great Balls of Bulls!

In a previous post this morning, we snidely referred to Florida's state legislator's as a "bunch of monkeys." There are several reasons for such a callous, disrespectful attitude. Here's one of them:

The State of Florida is in the grip of a recession. In some cities, houses are being foreclosed faster than their owners can find homeless shelters. Gasoline prices and food prices have gone through the proverbial roof and more and more people have taken to stealing and robbing so they can eat and buy gas. It appears that within just a few years, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, as well as the rest of the East and West Coasts of Florida will simply disappear under millions of gallons of salt water, as the ocean rises due to melting glaciers and ice packs. The state budget crunch is so severe that cities, counties and state agencies are laying off people, selling equipment, closing down buildings, cutting back services (even emergency services) ... in fact, things are so bad that some legislators have actually suggested maybe, perhaps, the state should forgo this year's tax-free holidays normally held just before school opens in mid-summer.

So, what do you think is a major topic of debate in Florida's Senate chambers? It's about replicas of bull testicles that often hang from the back of pickup trucks! Senator Carey Baker, a Republican from Eustis, is deeply offended by this display of nature's charms and is sponsoring a resolution that would authorize police to give $60 tickets to drivers with their balls hanging out.

The first debate, which became somewhat graphic at times, took place with school children watching from the galleries. When the debate was re-ignited, senators obeyed the Senate president's wish that they tone down the language. They talked about "glands." Steve Geller, a Democrat from Cooper City, thought the whole testy business untasty and suggested that the Senate needn't bother legislating what people can dangle from their cars or pickups.

If you're interested, you can buy the balls on the Internet at Your Nutz and BullsBals. The owner of Your Nutz is quite pleased with the debate in Florida's senatorial chambers as it has provided him with much free publicity and business is booming. "Every time this happens, it drives my sales through the roof. I can't thank this lawmaker enough. I'm considering contributing to these guys who are coming up with these bills."

BullsBalls has a variety of bull's testes, ranging in price from the mid-teens to about $50. You can get them in mocha, ivory, pink, silver, gold and chrome.

BullsBalls owner, John Saller, is likewise happy when state legislatures try to make his balls illegal as it jump starts his business, too. "Florida is not the first state to do this," he said. Other states that have tried and failed to make bulls balls illegal include Virginia and New Jersey.

We should note that several folks in Florida's Senate have more smarts than Mr. Baker. "It's a first amendment thing," said one. Of course it is. As Senator Victor Crist noted, who is also a Republican, "It was a waste of time. We have better things to do than sit down and listen to a debate on whether or not someone should be allowed to hang an ornament on their trailer hitch or not.

"To me," he continued, "It's a First Amendment right of personal expression..."

Senator Crist is correct. I agree that the hanging of these balls from trucks or cars or boats or planes or whatever is protected by the First Amendment. I also think that it is low-class and stupid! And if the State Senate cannot find anything better to do than deal with matters like this they should pack up their bags and go home so we can elect people with brains and common sense.

Some advice from John Saller: "If you're driving down the road with your kid and your kid asks, 'What's that?' and you don't know what to say, just tell them 'That's a male truck.'"

Jesus a Hindrance?

[This material is from an article by Zach Smith of Scripps Howard News Service]

There's a charity by the name of Jesus House of Hope in Martin County, Florida. It's a non-profit and has been in existence for 24 years. Jesus House of Hope has an annual budget of $825,000, 30 percent of which derives from the four thrift shops it operates, with the balance coming from churches, private grants, individuals and fundraisers.

According to the executive director, Patrick Slattery, the charity has as its mission to serve the needy as Jesus "commanded in the Gospel of Matthew." It does this by providing emergency financial assistance to those who lack funds to meet basic needs and by giving gifts of food to the hungry.

Slattery insists the charity is "really not a religious organization. There's no church. There were never any ministers, never any priests." [Question: What defines a "religious" organization?]

But Slattery's insistence that Jesus House of Hope is not a religious organization is important in order to justify the rationale for a name change. Last year, facing fewer donations, "the charity began to distance itself from the reference to Jesus." Slattery claims some private foundations will not give money to the charity because the word, "Jesus," is included in its name.

Additionally, if people think the charity is a church or "house of worship," and they already give to their own church, they may not give to Jesus House of Hope.

So last month, the board of directors of Jesus House of Hope changed its name to simply, House of Hope. "We decided we were going to have to bite the bullet and begin doing business as House of Hope," said Slattery.

It's done. Although the charity will still be named Jesus House of Hope legally, it will do business as House of Hope charity.

Slattery thinks Jesus would not be offended. I agree.

It is interesting, though, that a charity such as this is more likely to thrive without Jesus than with Jesus.

The Apes of Gibraltar

Gibraltar, the rock that stands guard over the entrance to the Med off the southern tip of Spain, has long had Barbary Apes roaming the mountain, or "high ground."

Gibraltar is a British colony.

Fifty years ago, while part of a group on a U.S. Navy training mission, I spent a night in the Azores. Shortly after we arrived, a United States Air Force plane landed. Its cargo consisted of apes which were tended to by U.S. Air Force "stewards."

We were told this was a "hush-hush" mission; that the United States was supplying apes for the British colony of Gibraltar because the apes on Gibraltar were dying off. So, why didn't the British get their own apes?

Well, the Spanish think Gibraltar should be part of their country. They don't like the fact that Gibraltar is a British colony. And there is an old legend which claims that when the apes of Gibraltar are gone, the British will leave.

The British did not want anyone to think they took the legend seriously by flying in apes to replace ones that had died, so the U.S. Air Force came to the rescue! We kept Gibraltar supplied with apes.

I had the privilege of spending a day on Gibraltar. While I did not get up to the "high ground" to see the apes, some of my friends did. They reported the apes acted quite friendly, but also had a tendency to grab food or purses from the unaware who got too close.

Now it seems "A renegade group of Gibraltar's Barbary apes has annoyed residents so much that" authorities plan to kill them. A few months ago, a "cluster" of these apes took up residence in a "beach-side area ... where they have been stealing food, entering rooms through open windows and harassing tourists..."

Ernest Britto, the territory's tourism manager, was the one who decided to kill this band of looters. "It is a last resort," said Britto, as he thinks they pose a danger to the public health. According to the Gibraltar Chronicle, two of the apes have already been caught and given lethal injections.

I don't care about Britain's colonial aims, but why kill these animals? Is there not a way of returning them to their original homes in Africa, or Morocco, or north Algeria? Maybe they could be placed in zoos around the world?

Actually, the best place for their relocation might be Florida's Disneyworld. Then the monkeys who inhabit our state legislature could drive down to Orlando and see what happened to their cousins when they harassed and stole from the people.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Wish I Were a Rich Man!

Photo of is Richard D. Fairbank, CEO of Capital One Financial. Mr. Fairbank is a good CEO so far as Capital One is concerned; so good that he was ranked #1 in CEO compensation in 2006 by Forbes magazine.

How much did Mr. Fairbank make in 2006? $249.42 million.

Rich men (and women) have it made under George W. Bush's administration.

In seven years, the Bushites have decimated the middle class. In the United States there are now two economic classes: the "rich" and the "rest."

The latest edition of The Hightower Lowdown by Jim Hightower deals with "What 8 years of BushCheney have done to our economy." Under the headings of "Living" and "Homeowners and Renters," Hightower highlights how George has hit the rest of us:

People living in poverty in 2001: 31.6 million. In 2008: 36.5 million.
Americans going hungry in 2001: 31 million. In 2008: 38.2 million.
Cost of a gallon of milk in 2001: $3.00. In 2008: $3.79.
Rental on a 2-bedroom home in Los Angeles in 2001: $1,453. In 2008: $2,229.
Total consumer credit debt in 2001: $7.65 trillion. In 2008: $12.8 trillion
Personal savings rate in 2001: +2.3%. In 2008: -0.5%

Increase in number of home foreclosures from 2006: 68%
Households currently at risk of foreclosure: 2 million
Households paying more than 1/2 their income for housing: 13 million
Households unable to afford even the lowest-priced rentals: 2.8 million

Here's how Mr. Bush plans to help deal with the housing crisis:

1. Cut the number of housing vouchers that help the very poor pay their rent by 100,000!
2. Cut the budget for housing for poor, elderly people by 27%!
3. Cut the budget for housing for people with disabilities by 32%!
4. Cut the fund for repair and maintenance of public housing by 17% and eliminate funding to repair public housing damaged by natural disasters!
5. Cut the lead-hazard reduction funds by 20%!
6. Cut the block grants to cities and states for housing and community-development programs by 18%!
7. Cut low-income energy assistance by 20%!

Our Congress is not much better. The U.S. Senate approved a bill last week (the Foreclosure Prevention Act...ha, ha!) which is supposed to help American homeowners. It doesn't! Mainly it puts billions of dollars in tax breaks into the hands of the very rich - the very corporate bosses that created the mess to begin with!!!

The Republican Right likes to castigate "liberals" for being too socialistic. They are referring to the fact that liberals and/or some Democrats believe the government has an obligation to provide assistance to citizens in need.

The truth is that members of the Republican Right are actually more "socialistic" than liberals ever were; it's just that the object of their largess is different. The Republican Right cares little for the average citizen, but they do favor government handouts to big business, along with a reduction in competition, regulation, and responsibility of those big businesses in order to unfetter their ability to rake in obscene profits on the backs of those who labor for a pittance.

About this Senate bill: The biggest home builders in our country will be allowed to "claim millions in tax refunds by charging their current losses against the huge profits they made three or four years ago. Other struggling industries would benefit from this provision," these "struggling industries" being the financial-services industries.

But, as Suzanne Barlyn asks, "Why use taxpayer money to aid industries whose practices wreaked havoc on our nation's economy?"

And "What about the rest of us? Do we get to count our stock-market losses against the capital-gains taxes we may have incurred when the economy was booming?" Hell, no!

Our poor automobile manufacturers will also be blessed by this Senate bill by being given a tax break which "would let them collect alternative minimum tax credits, also known as AMT, that otherwise would be out of reach because they did not pay enough taxes in recent years to claim a rebate.

"If the provision becomes law, it could mean checks up to $40 million for the automakers, as long as the companies had made investments in plant of equipment in that amount."

This neat little tax break would also be a boon for our domestic airlines and other manufacturers: American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Goodyear.

Okay, now we've seen what the "rich" are gonna get (if the bill passes). Where are the breaks for the "rest" of us?

Well, this Senate bill does give a grant of $7,000 tax credit to buyers of foreclosed homes, or homes involved in foreclosure proceedings" ... wait, how does that help me when I have to decide between paying my mortgage and buying food for my kids?

It doesn't.

Again from Ms. Barlyn. This bill does "squat" for the homeowner.

Maybe the House of Representatives will fix it, but I doubt it. They need the big bucks from these corporations to get re-elected, too.

The "rich" will get theirs, the "rest" will get squat!

Lieberman Hesitates to Call Obama a Commie!

Is Barack Obama a Marxist, a Commie?

Lieberman said so, sort of. When the "Sanctimonious Hobbit" (that's Lieberman) was asked about Bill Kristol's linking of Obama to Karl Marx, he sputtered. It was on the Brian and Judge radio show. The question was direct - was Obama a Marxist? The Sanctimonious Hobbit said, "I must say, that's a good question ... I will tell you that during this campaign, I've learned some things about him, about the kind of environment from which he came ideologically. And I wouldn't ... I'd hesitate to say he's a Marxist, but he's got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America."

What a wuss!

And that mealy-mouthed, chicken-shit answer is from the man that Obama went to bat for two years ago when Lieberman was up against Ned Lamont in the Connecticut primary. Obama gave a major speech in which he endorsed Lieberman for re-election!

Jane Hamsher on Firedoglake notes an AP story from 2006 which reported that "Lieberman became Obama's mentor when Obama was sworn into the Senate in 2005. the very end of the 2006 race, Obama switched to support Lamont, who had won the Democratic primary and Lieberman was tossed out of the Democratic party on his ass! Sounds reasonable to me.

As I've said before, this kind of crap is going to multiply in the coming months. Michael Savage, which no sensible person even begins to take seriously, has called Obama "a Marxist in his heart." Dear heart! Savage, who likes to savage people continued: "He's an Afro-Leninist, and I know he's dangerous." What in the hell is an "Afro-Leninist"?

Is this a great country, or what? I mean a total moron like Michael Savage is given a nationally-syndicated radio show! This is the same guy who said a while back that Obama was "an unknown stealth candidate who went to a madrassas in Indonesia ... [and] I think he was hand-picked by some very powerful forces both within and outside the United States of America [probably Jewish, don't you think?] to drag this country into a hell that it has not seen since the Civil War of the middle of the 19th century ... [and] the American people, being at war with radical Islam have a -- have a need to know just exactly what kind of Muslim he was exposed to, what kind of Muslim he is, what kind of Muslim teachings he's -- he's friendly to...."

Supposedly about 8 million people in this country listen to this Savage idiot every week. Maybe there isn't any hope!

Where Goes Your Tax Money and Where Goes God?

This is from the National Priorities Project.

If you can't sleep at night because you're wondering how the government is spending the hard-earned money you donate in taxes, this should either blow your mind or set your mind at rest. If you find it sets your mind at rest, run, do not walk, to your nearest psychiatrist!

Out of every federal income tax dollar:

Military spending - 42.2 cents
Health - 22.1 cents
Interest (non-military debt) - 10.2 cents
Anti-Poverty Programs - 8.7 cents
Education Training and Social Services - 4.4 cents
Government and Law Enforcement - 3.9 cents
Housing and Community Development - 3.3 cents
Environment Energy & Science - 2.6 cents
Agriculture Commerce and Transportation - 1.5 cents
International Affairs - 1 cent

Or, you can look at it this way. In 2007, median income families in the U.S. paid $2,628 in federal income taxes. Here's how that money was spent by your government:

Military - $1,109
Health - $581
Interest on Non-military Debt - $269
Anti-Poverty Programs - $228
Education, Training & Social Services - $115
Government & Law Enforcement - $102
Housing & Community Development - $88
Environment, Energy & Science - $69
Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture - $40
International Affairs - $27

Don't you wonder why a country described by our president as "a nation of prayer and compassion ... a nation that believes in religious liberty and welcomes the role of faith in the public square ... a nation that is not only 'innovative, creative and dynamic,' but also one of the most religious on earth" spends almost 50 percent of its money on the military?

Obviously, believing in religious liberty, blabbing about our faith in the public square and being really religious isn't sufficient. There either isn't any god or she doesn't much care what happens to the U.S.

Those are the only reasons I can think of why we have to spend almost 50 percent of our money on the military.

A Scandal or Much Ado About Nothing?

[This from Media Matters.]

"The scandal du jour on the campaign trail is the revelation that 'family recipes' posted in Cindy McCain's section on her husband's campaign website were apparently lifted from the Food Network. To beat back the inexplicable firestorm over ahi-tuna-gate, the campaign has said it was an unpaid intern who posted the recipes."


But George Zornick rightly asks why in God's name would an unpaid intern have "a final editorial voice on the website of the Republican nominee for president?"

If the unpaid intern story is true, which is open to question, then, as Zornick points out, other questions are raised. About money and "McCain's significant financial handicap."

An article by John Heilemann in New York magazine noted that McCain has only four full-time financial staff persons, and that he is way behind Obama and Clinton in total amount of monies raised. McCain: $11 million total. Obama: $40 million.

So what's going on here?

I still want to know if Cindy plagiarized those recipes!

The Pope & Bush & Hypocrisy

The Pope has arrived. President Bush laid out the red carpet in welcome. Nine thousand plus people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House to sing "Happy Birthday" to the papal leader.

Mr. Bush, smarmy as usual, said that the pope's visit "was a reminder for Americans to 'distinguish between simple right and wrong.'

"We need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth. In a world where some see freedom as simply the right to do as they wish, we need your message that true liberty requires us to live our freedom not just for ourselves, but in a spirit of mutual support."

I wonder if Bush has a clue what all that means? It sounds much more like a sermon from a high priest than a message from a political leader. Did Bush put words in Pope Benedict's mouth? Would most Americans have even the foggiest idea of what Bush meant when he referred to a "dictatorship of relativism"? What would Bush know about "a culture of justice and truth?"

And if there is one thing Americans do not need is the pope to help us distinguish from "right" and "wrong."

There has never been a presidential administration since the founding of our country that has had less interest in "a culture of justice and truth." In fact, the exact opposite is more descriptive of George W. Bush's presidency!

This was the Pope's first visit to the United States. Even before landing, Benedict had expressed dismay at the sexual abuse uncovered in the American church. From what he said, it appeared he did not feel the problem was as great in other countries. If true, I'm afraid that's a very naive attitude.

Upon arrival, the message was more upbeat. He said he was looking forward to meeting "a great people and a great church." Standing next to Bush, Benedict said "I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the church in the United States and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute even more responsibly to the life of this nation of which they are proud to be citizens."

Bush was even more maudlin. He explained to the Pope that America is very virtuous. It is "a nation of prayer and compassion, a nation that believes in religious liberty and welcomes the role of faith in the public square, and one that is the most 'innovative, creative and dynamic country on Earth' but also among the most religious."

And all the people said: "What a crock!"

Looking at the current situation in the United States and the position of the United States around the world, one may well conclude that Mr. Bush is either deliberately presenting a phony Christian nationalist picture of this country, or is so out of touch with reality he should be locked away in a room with padded walls. Just about everything he has done in the past seven years, when held up against this kind of public religiosity, defines him as one of history's biggest hypocrites.

The same might be said of Pope Benedict XVI. The sexual abuse scandals that have exploded across the face of our nation represent an institution that is corrupt at its core; an institution which, through its theology and practice, has created a culture that breeds contempt and abuse and hypocrisy.

The American church is not a "great" church. It is a hidebound institution committed to perpetrating ancient prejudices: desiring to impose its Catholic "values" relative to abortion, birth control, stem cell research, etc., upon all American citizens; continuing a celibate priesthood; espousing homophobia even as a goodly percentage of its clergy are of that persuasion; and denying one-half of the human race the ability to serve at Roman altars. No, the Roman church has little to offer in terms of "right" and "wrong!"

In spite of his comments to reporters while flying to the U.S., Pope Benedict XVI has much to answer for with regard to priestly sexual abuse in the United States. Being "dismayed" and/or chewing out the U.S. bishops for their laxity is not enough for exoneration!

Thomas Heiden of Stratford, Connecticut, wrote the following in response to an article in Media Matters:

"The Pope's protestation of distress at the abuse of children by Catholic priests is a total sham.

"Cardinal Law, who for many years routinely and knowingly transferred abuse priests from parish to parish in the greater Boston area, has a post of great honor in this Pope's Vatican.

"If Law were anyone else, he would be in jail in the United States. If Benedict is sincere, he should insist Law return to this country for trial. Instead, Law stands as the patron saint of pedophiles."

The Pope and Bush: Hypocrites writ large.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is my number?

One morning, I crawled out of bed and looked at the clock on my nightstand. The LED said 800. 800 was a good number. I thought that must be my number.

Later that same day, I stood in front of the deli counter at the supermarket intending to buy some fresh bread and Boar's Head salami. No one waited on me. Then I realized the other people standing there had little pieces of paper with numbers on them. I went and got my own number: it was 42. That must be my number.

On my way home, I stopped at the Post Office to mail some bills. I had wised up, though, and immediately went to the little machine and ripped off a number; it said 62. Wow, that must be my number.

I lived with the number, 62, for several days. Then I went shopping at the mall. I bought two sweatshirts as the weather had cooled considerably. The clerk wanted my credit card number, which turned out to be 2212 3212 4432 9870. She was happy, but I was not. That was too long to be my number! How could I possibly remember that?

While at the mall, I thought I'd get a new cell phone as the one I had could not take pictures. I don't know why anyone would want to take pictures with a telephone, but from what I hear it's the latest thing so I thought I ought to get one. I stopped at one of those kiosks where behind the counter sat two youngsters with spiked, orange and black hair, four tattoos, and an attitude. Neither one of them seemed to know too much, and when they asked me for my current cell phone number, I walked away! I couldn't remember that! And that couldn't have been my number, anyway. Whoever heard of a cell phone number being your number?

Things got worse. On my way home I was stopped by a motorcycle cop for speeding. I couldn't have been speeding, 'cause I was thinking about my number and not paying attention to how fast I was going. But she wanted my driver's license number, which was likewise way too long to be my number. I became ever more frustrated.

Two weeks later, I came down with a nasty cough, so arranged to meet with my doctor. She's very nice and did not ask me for my HMO number. But the clerical staff in her office did. That, too, was a horribly long number and I was certain that could never be my number!

I became depressed. Now, like most red-blooded Americans, when depressed I buy things. And it doesn't matter that I don't have any money because I can put whatever I buy on credit. Well, my car was several years old and had a lot of miles, so I drove from the doctor's office to a car dealer whose advertisement I had seen on television. I bought a new car. The paper work was massive. There were a lot of useless numbers, but then I had to provide my Social Security number! Could that be my number? No, it was also too long to be my number!

I drove my new car home, and home was much easier to find as I had had a GPS system installed. Pulling into the driveway, I noted the number 3179 on a wood block on the side of my house. I thought, "All right!" That's a great number and easy to remember! That has to be my number!

The rest of the day I felt really, really good. I knew my number! It was an easy number to remember! Or so I thought. About four in the afternoon, sadly, I realized I had forgotten my number. But when I went outside to check the side of the house, the wood block with the number had been stolen by vandals! Now, I'd never know my number!

My life was a mess!

Much later that night, I crawled into bed and under the covers. It was very, very cold. Suddenly, I heard a frosty voice: "Hey, buddy, your number's up!"

I screamed. "But what is my number?"

Everything went blank.

Setting one's teeth on edge

There's too much change these days and the changes come too fast. One cannot get truly grounded before the ground erodes away.

All of a sudden we're floating...

Take global warming, for instance. We've known for a long time global warming was going to lead to some problems, perhaps severe problems, but most scientists indicated we had time to deal with it, make the changes necessary to at least slow it down, if not halt it. (Well, most of us have known all this - some, like the fundys and the neocons and the Bushites have refused to believe it.)

Now, suddenly, we hear the glaciers are melting, ice caps are disappearing, various species such as the Polar Bear are threatened with extinction; we are told that soon flooded coastlines will be the norm, Miami as we know it may disappear, we can expect hotter summers, colder winters, and more and stronger hurricanes.

The effects of global warming are no longer in the future, but are here now!

Bush just found out. He's talking tough about how Congress better deal with this problem this summer, or else! Sheesh!

But it's other things, too. The price of gas has skyrocketed in just a short time. (A friend tells me it now costs $1,000 to fill his dump truck with diesel.) The economy, thanks to G.W. has tanked and the entire world is feeling the effects of American perfidy. Food costs have, in just weeks, gone through the roof.

Today's news tells how some of our major and favorite chain stores are closing which will mean a new and different look to many malls: Bombay Furniture, Sharper Image, Linens 'n Things, Ann Taylor, and Zales Jewelers.

Other stores, such as K-Mart and Old Navy are in trouble.

The end is not in sight. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. It's enough to set one's teeth on edge.

Obama & Lincoln or Will Lincoln Survive "Gettysburg" Comments?

The following is from the Tales of the Freeway Blogger. It is a response to the multitudinous inanities spewing forth from the mouths of the pundits at Fox News (and other, real, news services) as to whether Obama can weather his poor choice of words in some recent comments or whether he is doomed politically.

Will Lincoln Survive "Gettysburg" Comments?

Transcript from "Hannity's America" November 20, 1863

Sean Hannity: Well, we've got the transcript right here and it looks like Mr. Lincoln's really put his foot in it this time. The question for our panelists is: "After Gettysburg, Does Lincoln still have a chance for re-election?" Pat?

Pat Buchanan: I'd have to say no Sean. Right from the start he's set himself up as another liberal elitist, hopelessly out of touch with the voters. "Four Score and Seven..." The number he's looking for is eighty-seven. Maybe if he put down his chablis and brie plate for a minute he'd understand how real people actually speak.

Laura Ingraham: And the whole thing was written on the back of an envelope for cryin' out loud. Hey Abe, get a clue: It's called "paper." Not everybody can use a perfectly good envelope, which as all Americans know is meant for mailing things...and he uses it for scratch paper! Give me a break!

Sean Hannity: Let's go a little further down here to the comments that really seem to have set American's teeth on edge, the part about not being able to dedicate, consecrate or "hallow", whatever that means, this ground. It is wise for someone running for re-election to tell us what we can't do? Does he just hate Americans? Pat?

Pat Buchanan: Sure sounds like it to me.

Laura Ingraham: Well, he certainly doesn't seem to care much for women that's for sure: "Our fathers"? "Brave men"? "All men are created equal?" I tell you, if women could vote, they certainly wouldn't vote for him!

Sean Hannity: And here he says we're engaged in a "Great Civil War." Really, Mr. President? I bet there's a lot of Americans out there who'd like to know what you think is so great about it. He also says, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here..." I bet now he sure wishes we're not gonna remember!

Pat Buchanan: I know it's a small point, but isn't "Abraham" a Jewish name?

(Again, thanks to the Freeway Blogger!)

One Nation, Under God?

Some years back when I was teaching school, one of my peers began a brouhaha about the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone, she claimed, was saying it wrong! The "wrong" came about as most of us said the Pledge with a bit of a pause, as if there were a comma between "one nation" and "under God." There is NO comma she reminded us again and again.

At the time I thought she was a little bit nuts, and in retrospect I still think that, but I also think she was expressing her wish that the United States was in truth a Christian nation, under God.

Yesterday, David Edwards and Nick Juliano at therawstory, wrote of a Republican congressman from Georgia who, like my school teacher friend, believes the deletion of the inserted comma to be of vital, national importance.

He's a freshman congressperson by name of Paul Broun who had the temerity, while leading the Pledge of Allegiance, to lecture the members of the House of Representatives as to the proper way to say the Pledge.

"There should not be a comma between 'one nation' and 'under God,'" said Mr. Broun, preachily.

It is well known that before 1954, the Pledge contained no reference to a deity. By the mid-fifties, however, many Americans had become convinced that the Communists were the greatest threat since Margaret Truman began singing. So, to reassure the deity that we were on her side, the phrase "under God" was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.

These days, the Christian fundamentalists love it because the phrase so succinctly expresses their notion that the United States was founded by Christians and is a Christian nation, and if it isn't, well by God it better be pretty soon or we're all gonna be left behind when Jesus returns to "rapture" his faithful Gentile followers.

But if we're going to get through to god, the Pledge has to be recited without that damn comma, or it's no good! It's like history professor, Matthew Dennis, said: "Without a comma, the phrase indicates that the central characteristic of the United States as a political community is its subordination to God." And that's what the Brouns of the world want.

Edwards and Juliano write that "A Broun spokesman even said there should be no pause to emphasize there is 'no separation or implied separation between nation and God.'" Arrrgh!

Okay. Here we have another bozo elected to Congress who doesn't understand the Constitution of the United States! Or he just doesn't care. He's a true believer who's job, he thinks, is to make sure all the rest of us believe like he does. In November of 2007, he lent his support to a bunch of revisionists haunting the halls of Congress who were (and are) trying to promote the Ten Commandments. At that time, he said "I commend the Ten Commandments Commission for their efforts to remind Americans that we are, in fact, 'one nation under God.'"

Who is Paul Broun, you ask. He's a physician from Athens, Georgia. He's an avid hunter, and has killed an African lion, a Kodiak bear, a red stag from Argentina, an eland, a cape buffalo, and a wart hog. "I've hunted wild mountain sheep in Africa, as well as Spain and Pakistan."

He also eats everything he kills. Lion is "not very tasty. It's really chewy."

Warthog is the best-tasting.

I guess all that killing makes him a "real" man?

Broun found Jesus (I didn't even know he was lost) back in 1975 when he saw a John 3:16 banner at a football game. And when he recently became a congressperson, Jesus told him what to do. Jesus said outlaw abortion, because all fetuses are people and abortion is an unmitigated evil. Thus Broun thinks "'s my job in Congress to prove that the unborn are people under the law and deserve protection under the Constitution, so I will continue as long as I'm in Congress to introduce my Sanctity of Human Life bill every year..."

This is the funniest part! He ran for Congress as a Republican "because of the moral issues..." Ha, ha, ha, ha. These days it just doesn't work to include the words, "Republican" and "moral," in the same sentence. But, says Broun, "My faith is very important to me. The Republican Party was and is now the party of limited government and no intrusion into people's lives, and that's what I believe in..."

You have to wonder about a man whose mind allows him to proclaim he's for limited government and not intruding into people's lives and then wants to pass a bill that would ban abortion, or post the Ten Commandments in public places! Talk about overbearing government and intrusion into people's lives!

Well, what else can you expect from a man who spells Brown Broun? (I'm just kidding!) Still, it is really tiring to listen to the crap these right-wing fundamentalist hypocrites keep throwing at the rest of us. And when he talks about a god this nation is under, what god is he talking about? We all know, of course, he's talking about the Christian fundamentalist god created by biblical illiterates, but it's still a fair question seeing as how we've got all kinds of gods being worshipped in this "one nation, under God."

Furthermore, you'd think a first-term congressperson would sit down, shut up, listen to what his colleagues had to say and work on something of real importance to the country. That, however, might require a bit of effort, a tad of common sense, and a whole lot less religion!

Just say "No," Rabbi Yoffie

The word is out that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, leader of Reform Judaism in the United States, is willing to meet with The Wrong Rev. John Hagee, to "discuss their differences."

What a mistake that would be!

You will remember that Rabbi Yoffie, in a recent speech, suggested that Jews should shun Hagee and his organization, Christians United for Israel.

You may also recall that Yoffie's comments pissed off the Rev. Wrong John Hagee, who claimed that Yoffie not only lied, but did not show him the proper respect.

According to their respective spokespersons, both men are considering a sit-down.

We've dealt at length with the rantings of the Rev. Wrong Hagee, and no matter how many times you review what he has said, it doesn't get any better.

The facts are these: Yoffie did not lie and Hagee is insane.

Please, Rabbi Yoffie, do not meet with Hagee. To do so will only to provide him with credibility he does not deserve. This is the man who pretends to love the Jews but strives to start a war with Iran using nuclear weapons which will destroy the world, an event which he believes will bring about the 2nd coming of his Jesus. He also believes when that happens all the Jews who don't accept Jesus as the messiah will be slaughtered.

Read his book, Jerusalem Countdown.

He does not deserve your respect! Do not reward his madness with a mantle of credibility!

Let Hagee meet with himself.

No, No, Please, Not Iraq!

A few days ago we wrote about the new $600 million embassy in Iraq that is supposed to be open for business May.

We mentioned that last year when the State Department went looking for people to work in Iraq, there was a mini-revolt "among foreign service officers who objected to compulsory work in a war zone." In the end, however, the revolt fizzled as the State Department obtained a sufficient number of volunteers.

History is repeating itself. As before, this year the State Department has again sent out a warning that U.S. diplomats may have to serve in Iraq and that prime candidates will soon be identified for jobs at the new Baghdad embassy. That means if you're qualified (e.g., if you have the requisite language skills, or knowledge of the Mideast, or construction knowledge) you may be forced to fly off to the Green Zone whether you want to or not.

To be fair, some 20 percent of the 12,000 foreign service officers have already served in what are considered "major hardship posts," such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still...a brand-spanking new $600 million embassy with a swimming pool and tennis courts...I mean, who wouldn't want to work there? Shouldn't be that bad when you're rocket-dodging skills have been perfected.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Economic Wasteland of George W. Bush

Joshua Holland published a brief piece the other day on Alternet which summarized several of the main points of a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The global slump is probably going to be worse than predicted, with a one-in-four chance of a global recession, which happens when world economic growth drops below 3.0 percent.

This year's prediction is that global growth will slow to 3.7 percent "amid the still-deepening financial crisis set off by rampant speculation on securities backed by shaky mortgages in insufficiently regulated U.S. financial markets." [My emphasis]

"The financial market crisis that erupted in August 2007 has developed into the largest financial shock since the Great Depression."

While Latin America and other "countries linked to the plummeting U.S. dollar will be hardest hit as the U.S.-led slump spreads around the globe," countries with growing economies, "such as China and India, will suffer the least pain."

Holland concludes by noting that "Economist Dean Baker has said that he could see average American incomes fall by as much as 40 percent before we hit bottom."

But Mr. Holland only presented a part of the picture. Much of the economic stagnation predicted for this year and next is due to the drop in housing prices, which have fallen 10 percent, but are expected to continue to fall further to between 14 and 20 percent.

And no matter that the U.S. government will provide "many billions of dollars in government spending to aid the financial sector, shore up consumer and business spending, and save homeowners from dispossession," the U.S. economy is going to grow by a mere 0.5 perecent in 2008.

Japan's economy will slow down and "The 15-member eurozone will see its growth slow to 1.4 percent." But, China will continue its robust growth: 9.3 percent this year and 9.5 percent next year. Similar growth is expected in India.

It gets even worse. The IMF said "that worldwide losses from the financial turmoil could top 945 billion dollars within two years. Others also have predicted costs around the 1.0-trillion-dollar mark."

What this means for millions of human beings is less food, and more costly food; " ...soaring commodity prices ...have removed staple foodstuffs from the reach of countless people in developing countries, where many citizens spend half their income or more on food alone."

Sub-Saharan Africa is in trouble as is South Asia, "home to most of the world's poor people and the planet's highest levels of child malnutrition.

"Worldwide ... 1.0 billion people lack access to clean water, 1.6 billion people have no access to modern energy sources, and 2.6 billion live without basic sanitation."

"The 'Bush Boom" is an Epic Bust," says Hale Stewart in an article by that title at the Huffington Post. What that means is that the United States is in deep trouble because of the Bush administration's financial policies and programs!

Mr. Stewart does a detailed analysis using data from The National Bureau of Economic Research, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the St. Louis Federal Reserve of U.S., the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds report and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Here's how Mr. Stewart sums up the situation after seven years with George W. Bush at the helm of our government:

1. The weakest job growth since WWII led to a declining median family income.

2. In order to keep spending the U.S. consumer continued to save less and borrow more.

3. At the national level, the U.S. government has issued over $500 billion dollars of net new debt per year since 2002. This has led to an increased reliance on foreign investors to finance our way of life.

4. The trade deficit has continued to expand, although oil is responsible for a fair amount of that increase.

5. In short, the U.S. continues to consume more than it produces.

Then he says, "At some point, we will have to pay the bill. This is the end result of the 'Bush boom,' or 'the greatest story never told.'"

Two specifics worth noting: When Bush took office, the government's total debt was $5,674,178,209,886.86.

The current debt is $9,437,425,175,221.31.

Because of the housing crisis, due largely to the Federal Government's lack of oversight of the financial markets, Mr. Bush plans to borrow close to $200 billion (from foreign investors) to give each taypaying family a few hundred dollars to spend (and thus consume) on foreign products.

The net result of which will put the U.S. deeper in debt, enrich those foreign countries from which we buy most of our products, and thus deepen our reliance on countries like China and Japan and Saudi Arabia for financial stability.

And finally, the "Bush boom" not only broke the bank in our own country but it's devastating impact is fueling the financial crisis around the globe.

Is George worried? Nah, he's feeling fine!

To reiterate: George W. Bush. The. Worst. President. Ever.

Is Obama a Godless Commie?

Andrew Sullivan has a brief article at describing Bill Kristol's inane blasting of Barack Obama's "bitter" statement.

Sullivan rightly accuses Kristol of not only implying Obama's faith may be faux but also of painting Obama with the Marxist brush because of that so-called "bitter" statement which referenced "the way in which economic distress can alter people's tolerance for others."

Obama said of those who are economically distressed:

"It's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Sounds like a rather astute observation about human nature to me.

But to Bill Kristol it makes Obama a phony Christian and a "godless commie," says Andrew Sullivan.

Sadly, we are going to have to deal with an increasing amount of Kristol's kind of derogatory, defamatory, false, lying, unprincipled Obama bashing between now and November.

Read Mr. Sullivan's entire article here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hey, Pat Robertson - Does God Answer Prayer?

It is always interesting to visit Pat Robertson's CBN or 700 Club. One just never knows what the Rev. Mr. Whacko is going to be doing or saying next. In 2001, Robertson claimed the 9/11 tragedy was due to America's moral failures (homosexuality, abortion, no prayer in schools, etc.) and a few years later suggested it would be a good thing to assassinate the president of a sovereign country, so it isn't unreasonable for people to wonder what will be his next gross violation of ethical/moral behavior and common sense.

Robertson is assuming a somewhat lower profile these days, thus his usual outrageous statements have not been forthcoming as often. Instead he is emphasizing the need and the importance of prayer. Robertson is one of those TV evangelists who knows the mind of God and thus puts no faith in recent studies which show clearly that intercessory prayer has no value, and in fact, in many cases, causes more pain and problems for the prayee.

In the minds of TV evangelists, nothing clears the air better than an anecdote. Anecdotal stories serve as evidence. Robertson loves them, and offers a diverse array of anecdotal stories about people healed by prayer. (All the better to con the folks out in TV land into sending him money!).

Here's one such story: It's about Ameng. Ameng was raised in Indonesia in a Buddhist family. But he was sent to a Christian school. Eventually, he "prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior." Ameng married a Muslim woman. His wife "began to suffer with a painful lump on her breast."

"We could not afford to see a doctor," said Ameng. "Besides, we were afraid that the doctor might tell us that it was cancer. We were definitely hopeless."

Ameng then came upon Indonesia's version of The 700 Club, called Solusi. Lots of people on Solusi said they'd been healed by prayer. Ameng began praying. His Muslim wife didn't mind. God soon began to heal his wife. "A short time later, the tumor and the severe pain were completely gone."

(This may be nitpicking, but notice that according to Ameng, he never took his wife to see a doctor so we do not know what was wrong with her. In the beginning she had a "painful lump," but at the end of the story he refers to "the tumor." The implication is that she had cancer, but that is never stated. The truth may be that nothing whatsoever was wrong with her.)

Then there's the story of Barbara Torra from Dunmore, Pennsylvania. She hurt her back and was suffering excruciating pain. It was unbearable. "I was crying all the time," she said. "I was just in so much pain."

This went on for eight months. But Barbara was sure that God would heal her. In the beginning she went to a doctor who said she had "suffered damage to the fourteenth vertebra in her back." Evidently, she did not go back to the doctor, and if the doctor prescribed any treatment she did not follow it.

What she did do was study the Bible and she "kept claiming Scriptures" [that's fundamentalist talk] and kept saying, 'No, that this pain is not going to be on my body. I just relied on God to heal me.'" And Barbara watched The 700 Club. One day she paid special attention to the prayer segment. "I just knew that day God was going to do something special for me. I think it was the second word of knowledge, and the host said, 'There's somebody out there being healed in their lower back, their L-4 disc, with bulging disc, and God is completely healing you and restoring your back."

Well, Barbara knew right away that he was talking about her and she got on her knees and praised God and cried and thanked him. Sure enough, "Over the next three days, Barbara realized she was totally healed."

Now Barbara says that she knows God is "always faithful," and she knows "God heals today. ... God heals today, and His word is the same today, yesterday, and forever."

There isn't any question that the medical profession has confronted instances where, in spite of all evidence suggesting healing is impossible, healing has occurred. It would also seem to be the case that for some people, their mental approach to a physical problem can be either beneficial or detrimental.

These two anecdotal stories, however, tell us nothing of the so-called "power of prayer." In the first instance, we have no knowledge as to Ameng's wife's problem. She may not have had a problem at all. There is neither evidence of a problem, nor evidence of healing. We have a tale told by Ameng which may or may not reflect reality, but in any case, there is no reason to assume the intervention of a deity.

In Barbara's case, again, we have only her word. We do not know if, in fact, she continued to see a doctor or if she underwent treatment by a medical professional. The implication is she did not, and I think she would have stressed the fact that medical procedures had not helped her. The rest of the story is pure malarkey. Assuming Barbara is a real person and that she really had a back problem, and that it is now better, I wish her well. But, again, there is absolutely no evidence of a god's intervention. It's all in Barbara's mind.

In fact, Barbara's back condition may have improved on its own. I've had the exact problem Barbara described and after a period of time, it did resolve itself - temporarily. Eventually, surgery was required. I wonder if The 700 Club will advise its viewers if Barbara at some point in the future undergoes the knife?

Again, in neither of these cases, is there a need to postulate a deity-healer.

CBN and The 700 Club offers up a glut of these kinds of stories. But because Robertson is the type of person who begs for contributions for planes to assist the needy in Africa and then uses them to haul diamonds from his mines, I wouldn't put it past him to make up most of these tales of prayer and godly intervention.

And while he may gloat over these "true" stories which he imagines point out the power of God, he also warns his viewers that sometimes "Your prayers aren't answered." Then he asks, rhetorically, "How come?"

Well, the number one reason for unanswered prayer is that "it's the wrong time." He quotes Paul, who said, "In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son." Even though people had prayed for the Messiah for years, it couldn't happen until the "fullness of time," which for Robertson meant that "The Roman Empire had to get peace. There had to be roads all over the Roman Empire. There had to be a common language. You go down the list of everything, and people's hearts had to be open. ... So that's number one. So you pray, and it's the wrong time; you don't get an answer."

Nothing! Nada! Not even a notice that it's the wrong time. How would you know it's the wrong time? Wouldn't you think God was ignoring you? If you are in dire need and praying desperately, it sure as hell is the "right" time for you!

Secondly, Robertson says prayers are not answered 'cause you're not ready. Ready for what? Well, says the reverend, there's something wrong in your life, like sin! "If there's sin in your life, you're not going to get it." Then, he confuses the issue by saying that what you pray for might be bad for you and destroy your life; but that doesn't fit his argument. Anyway, he concludes "So God's not going to give it, because you're not ready."

That sounds a lot like number one: the wrong time; not ready. Hey, I'm ready! I need your help, O God! This is the time! I need it today; I'm ready now! Where are you? You healed Ameng's wife and Barbara's back, why not me? Ameng's wife was a damn Muslim, for Christ's sake!

But Rev. Robertson has another reason you don't get your prayers answered. This sounds a lot like the first two, too. It is that "the answer you're asking for will hurt you. God will not give you the appropriate answer that you're asking for, because the answer to your prayer will hurt you." So, says the Rev, you don't know what you're asking, or you're asking for something selfish, or you're asking for something "to consume on your desire" (whatever that means).

The Pat tells this story: He wanted land for CBN. He tried all kinds of things, and of course, he prayed. "Nothing, just closed doors, because I was asking for the wrong thing. God was giving me something much better. Before it was finished--we now have, instead of six acres, we now have 700 acres along an interstate that is very valuable."

Whoopee! God wanted Pat to have something much better than what he was asking for. Wait, that doesn't sound like "the answer you're asking for will hurt you." I mean six acres may not be much, but it's six acres. How could that hurt?

Here's the best (worst?) part of this pious fraud's theology of prayer. Let's say someone you love dies. "And you say, 'Well I want him back to life again. And the answer here, very simple, is Heaven is better. And whether we like it or not on earth, we don't want to see a loved one taken away. ... But Heaven is better, and God says, 'He's with me, and I have brought him to this point ..." blah, blah, blah.

The life of a 26-year old mother of two young children was snatched away by cancer in our little town a few weeks ago. She and her husband, good Baptists that they were, decided this was God's will and God wanted her with Him in Heaven. That's how they got through the ordeal and believing that fantasy is what is helping the husband and her parents and friends get through the long, lonely days since she went to be with her Heavenly Father. That is all a fantasy, but hey, whatever works!

Robertson's theology of prayer is the equivalent of throwing a brick of moldy cheese to a drowning rat. It's a mishmash of pious nonsense that he's cobbled together from biblical passages and fundamentalist theology. Heaven is not better because we have no clue if, number one, there is a "heaven," and number two, what this heaven would be like! All we know and all we have is right here, right now.

To say that there is a god who kills people through car accidents, war, cancer or whatever, so He can bring them "home to heaven" is not only irresponsible but evil and immoral. Such a god would not be worthy of the slightest attention, much less worship and adoration.

Robertson's reasons for unanswered prayer are laughable. When you are truly in need and pray to a deity it is definitely NOT the wrong time and whether there is sin in your life is irrelevant (who hasn't "sin" in his/her life according to the fundy code?), and when you're praying for healing or a way out of a situation which is killing you, unless god is a horrible ogre, those are not the "wrong" things to pray for!

Finally, reflecting on Ameng's wife and Barbara, one must consider the incredible arrogance implied in those stories. Of all the needy people in the world, of all the starving children, of all the people in pain and torment, of all the people dying of cancer or who will never see or hear or speak or walk again due to disease or accident or war, why would the deity stoop to "cure" either Ameng's wife or Barbara and not do the same for others in much worse condition?

Is it that they prayed and others didn't? But we know that at this very moment, millions of people are praying desperately for relief, for healing, even for death. Here's my own anecdote. I know a 93-year old woman, nearly blind, on a respirator, crying out to god daily to take her "home," but god doesn't answer!

The New Testament figure we call Jesus said that the Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask. Well, why doesn't he do something? And why would we need to try to manipulate him to focus his healing power in our direction through prayer if he cared at all?

People are certainly free to believe that god hears their prayers and answers their prayers. Unfortunately, such belief remains just that; a belief with no basis in fact! Pat Robertson should know, for god answered his prayer in 1988 by telling him he would be president of the United States, and, in 1992, god told him the same thing again. Whoops, god must have been wrong!

Robertson, a charlatan, but no fool, plays on this fantasy of answered prayer in order to manipulate his viewers into sending a continual flow of their hard-earned money to finance his extravagant lifestyle and his many fraudulent, but pious enterprises.

Let us pray!

Repudiating the Bushites...

This from Media Matters:

Altercation, by Eric Alterman (Pictured)


Take a look at the front page of today's Times, and you have to wonder how in Hell any candidate can possibly expect to win an election without fully and completely repudiating every single policy professed by the Bush administration. We have a story about the housing crisis it ignored spreading around the world and causing a global recession; exploding co-payments for prescription drugs following its insane Medicare giveaway that destroyed the program's long-term solvency to put money in the pockets of corporations; terrorist tactics against union leaders in Colombia for a trade pact designed to further enrich those who are paying the murderers; and massive spending on $10 million apartments and private jets for the extremely wealthy, who are doing just fine, thanks (though some of them are apparently too stupid not to have themselves photographed as examples of conspicuous consumption). You have to turn to page 6A to learn of the 1,300 fired Iraqi soldiers and members of the security forces who refused to fight in the Basra debacle, and of course, there's no room for a story of the administration's catastrophic environmental policies, or its failures in the Middle East, vis-à-vis Iran and North Korea, etc, but you get the point.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

$600 Million Will Buy You An Embassy (In Iraq)

Ryan Crocker, a veteran diplomat, and currently the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, told reporters the other day that diplomatic workers should be able to begin moving into the new embassy in Iraq toward the end of May.

The embassy, a "fortress-like compound" next to the winding Tigris River in the heart of the city and within easy mortar range of the bad guys, is the largest embassy in the world - the size of Vatican City. It has its own security force (Blackwater) and its own power and water supply.

It is not just big physically, but the project has also been a big secret. At one point, a British tabloid claimed that even its location was a secret, which must have surprised the heck out of residents of Baghdad who stood and watched it being built. But until recently, embassy officials have refused to talk about it.

According to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, the embassy complex consists of 21 buildings on 104 acres. It is within the fortified "Green Zone," a 4-square-mile area that contains a number of U.S. and Iraqi government offices, ringed by miles of concrete barriers.

Over 5,500 Americans and Iraqis work at the embassy, about half being listed as "security." It is much larger than any other U.S. mission in the world. Many Iraqis feel that this massive U.S. presence in the middle of the city symbolizes the power that the U.S. wields over their counry.

Construction of the mammoth facility began in mid-2005 and was originally scheduled to be compled in June of 2007. It is being built on land transferred to the U.S. in October 2004 by the Iraqi interim government, under conditions not disclosed.

The original cost was estimated at over $1 billion. Congress, however, appropriated only $592 million in 2005. A Kuwait builder got most of the money, but other contractors have also been involved. What the real, hidden cost will finally be is anybody's guess.

Last year, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) criticized the size and the cost of the embassy at a hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He pointed out that massiveness of the embassy gives cause for the Iraqis to wonder how long we will be an occupying force in that country.

Certainly, the embassy is a cause of Iraqi resentment. Baghdad was recently rated as the world's worst city in which to live. Americans at the embassy will be living lives of luxury while the citizens of Baghdad try to survive on a little more than 5 hours of electricity per day.

The ambassador's residence alone contains 16,000 square feet. And as noted, the complex will have its own power and water supply, along with a sewage treatment facility and maintenance shops and warehouses. Additionally, the embassy employees will be able to enjoy a huge swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, a gymnasium, movie theater, beauty salon and social club.

One young Iraqi was quoted as saying, "People are very angry. It's for the Americans, not the Iraqis."

Nevertheless, the work is being completed and the move-in has been scheduled. Ambassador Crocker says the buildings are finished, but some have not been certified for permanent occupancy. The biggest problem, though, is that people are not safe, even in the "Green Zone." A recent round of rocket attacks killed several Americans.

Do you think that might be why the State Department has few, if any, volunteers for duty in Iraq and why the State Department has to threaten employees with loss of their jobs if they refuse to go to Iraq?

Crocker said "It's been a difficult few weeks, rockets are bouncing off your buildings, and maintaining focus can be an occasional challenge." Crocker claims that's why they need the security presence of the blackguard Blackwater boys. Things are so precarious that embassy personnel are ordered not to venture outside without helmets and body armor. Crocker says that the embassy personnel could not do their jobs without the protection of the Blackwater people.

Must be rather hard to swim in a helmet and body armor!

Crocker has his job cut out for him! Iraqis are angry about the embassy for many reasons. A major reason is that it was built primarily with imported labor. The main contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, brought in at least one planeload of Filipino construction workers to work in Baghdad after telling them they were going to Dubai.

Furthermore, the embassy compound is a glaring symbol of American imperialism, as well as American isolation and occupation, and "a sign of how little confidence the US has in Iraq's future." Jane Loeffler, wrote this in Foreign Policy magazine: "Encircled by blast walls and cut off from the rest of Baghdad, it stands out like the crusader castles that once dominated the Middle East."

She goes on to say that while embassies are normally built to encourage interaction with the host countries, this one defies that notion. "Although US diplomats will technically be 'in Iraq' they may as well be in Washington."

Edward Peck, a former US ambassador to Iraq, noted that "The embassy is going to have a thousand people hunkered behind sand-bags. I don't know how you conduct diplomacy in that way."

Some questions:

Why has this huge, costly monument to American imperialism not been discussed in detail in the press? Where are the outraged Congressmen and Congresswomen?

Why have our leaders not questioned the need for this huge, costly monument to American imperialism? Could it be that, along with John McCain, everyone expects we'll be bleeding in Iraq for the next 100 years?

Was this massive mess ever vetted by the Congress of the United States? Who's in charge here? How does something like this happen?

Could it just possibly be that this embassy is an investment in the protection of Iraqi oil for the Bush/Cheney oil interests?

Now, aren't you glad that the United States invaded Iraq to bring peace, stability and democracy to that country? And it's only going to cost us about $3 trillion!